Contents 1.The beginning 2. A key scene 3.The end
The Beginning: p1-10 The mood is very different before the Inspector arrives: All the characters are comfortable and “pleased with themselves.” The Inspector enters just as Birling is launching into another lengthy speech about a man having to look after himself and “his own” rather than thinking about others. Very timely…..
Sets the scene See notes on setting “…substantial and heavily comfortable; but not cosy and homelike.”
Introduces the main characters Arthur Birling: “heavy-looking;” self- important; in his 50s Sybil Birling: about 50; “a rather cold woman;” “her husband’s social superior” Sheila: pretty; early 20s; “very pleased with life and rather excited” Gerald: attractive, about 30; “easy well-bred young man-about-town” Eric: early 20s; “half shy, half assertive”
Shows the importance of social status to Mr and Mrs B. Mrs B disapproves of Mr B asking her to compliment the cook on dinner. “You’re not supposed to say such things” Mr B: “I was Lord Mayor here two years ago when Royalty visited us.” This helped with his chance of a knighthood.
Shows Mr B’s capitalist views “I’m talking as a hard-headed practical man of business.” “We’re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.” “I say there isn’t a chance of war. The world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible.” He speaks of developments such as the unsinkable Titanic. Shows us he does not know as much as he thinks he does.
Key Scene: The Inspector’s Exit p50-56 Beginning of Act 3: Eric is standing just inside the door after entering the room at the very end of Act 2. The others are staring at him after finding out he got Eva pregnant. He realises they have worked it out. It is revealed soon after that Eric’s relationship with Eva was shameful and that he has been stealing from his father
Conflict between Eric and Mrs B (bitterly) “You haven’t made it any easier for me, have you, Mother?” Mrs B is “blind” to Eric’s drinking. Mrs B is assisted out of the room by Sheila when she hears of Eric’s first night with Eva. She re-enters when we find out Eric is a thief. Eric finds out Mrs B denied Eva charity and almost physically attacks her: “Then - you killed her.”
Collective responsibilty Inspector (views of Priestley himself): “But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us…all intertwined with our lives…We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.” With a final comment that “if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.” He is speaking of the two upcoming world wars.
The End p62-72 The Birlings and Gerald doubt whether the Inspector was a “real” police officer and this affects how some of them feel about their responsibility in the girl’s death Mr and Mrs B and Gerald feel that if he wasn’t real, they have escaped a public scandal and this is the most important thing to them. Sheila and Eric still believe they must take responsibility for their actions because a girl has died and that is the most important thing.
Gerald First announces the Inspector is not real as told by a policeman he knows down the street. Suggests the photographs the Inspector showed each of them were of different girls. Rings the Infirmary to see if a girl has committed suicide by drinking disinfectant and “they haven’t had a suicide for months.”
Another twist… The older generation are completely relieved. Sheila and Eric ashamed for the others who “began to learn something” (Sheila). Sheila also mentions the “fire and blood and anguish” the Inspector talked about. THE TELEPHONE RINGS AND “A GIRL HAS JUST DIED…A POLICE INSPECTOR IS ON HIS WAY HERE – TO ASK – SOME QUESTIONS-”